Bath Salt Addiction and Abuse

Bath Salts were developed in the 1920s and they remained relatively obscure until the past decade. They are sought after as a cheaper and more accessible alternative to stimulants like amphetamine, cocaine and MDMA. While regulations to curb the sale of bath salts have been enacted in recent years, production and misuse continue.

What are bath salts?

Before fully understanding the depths of addiction, it’s important to address what bath salts are. Bath salts is the name for a class of drugs known as synthetic cathinones, including methylone, mephedrone, and methylenedioxypryovarlerone (MDPV). These manufactured substances are chemically similar to cathinone, a stimulant derived from the khat plant. However, while natural cathinone is relatively mild, these synthetic variations can be significantly stronger and have dangerous side effects.

The term “bath salts” derives from the substances sometimes being sold disguised as true bath salts, due to their granular or crystalline appearance. They are also sometimes marketed as “phone screen cleaner,” “jewelry cleaner,” or “plant food.”

Baths salts are sold under a number of street names:

  • Bliss
  • Bloom
  • Blue Silk
  • Cloud 9
  • Drone
  • Energy-1
  • Lunar Wave
  • Meow Meow
  • Pure Ivory
  • Scarface
  • Stardust
  • Vanilla Sky
  • White Lightning
  • Wicked X

Related Topic: Street Names for Drugs

Are Bath Salts Addictive?

Bath salts are classified as stimulants. The psychoactive chemical compounds in bath salts may produce effects similar to those experienced from cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA (Ecstasy) use. They can be swallowed, snorted, smoked or injected and may be purchased from convenience stores, local drug dealers or the internet.

What Causes Bath Salt Addiction?

Repeated substance use causes chemical dependency, which are lasting changes to the way the brain functions and operates. In fact, all misused substances alter the areas of the brain responsible for self-control, judgement, emotional regulation, motivation, memory and learning by hijacking the brain’s natural reward pathways. Although misused substances – including bath salts – act on different pathways in the brain, they all necessitate increasingly higher doses to produce a high or simply allow the individual to feel normal. Other issues like mental health disorders, multiple addictions and ancillary health problems may complicate substance addiction.  

Why Do People Use Bath Salts? 

Because many substances act on the brain’s pleasure pathways, the individual experiences intense euphoria followed by related emotional highs. People might choose to misuse bath salts for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Social: People misuse substances often as a way to “fit in” with a particular group or feel more at ease in a social setting.
  • Stress: Substance misuse may be a means to escape problems or a way to reduce stress.
  • Psychological triggers: People suffering from anxiety disorders, trauma, depression or other psychological disorders may begin misusing alcohol and substances to reduce or numb personal distress. Individuals with substance dependence are nearly twice as likely to have a co-occurring psychological disorder.
  • Peer pressure: Some people, especially teenagers and adolescents, are vulnerable to group pressure or the rationale that “everyone is doing it.”

Signs, Symptoms, and Effects of Bath Salt Addiction

Bath Salts affect the brain similarly to other stimulants, although they are less studied. They increase levels of pleasure and reward chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine to create an excited and euphoric state. However, because other substances are sometimes included or submitted during production, bath salt use may have unpredictable or dangerous symptoms.

Researchers are not sure how bath salts affect the brain, although it appears that, like other stimulants, they flood the brain with dopamine. By changing how much dopamine is accessible to neurons, the individual experiences a rapidly elevated mood, approaching mania, in addition to experiencing hallucinations, physical excitement, tremors, heart rate fluctuations, delusions, paranoia and delusions of grandeur. At first, however, bath salts can produce a stimulating, euphoric high.

In addition to the effects desired by people who misuse bath salts, there are many serious bath salts side effects associated with misuse. These can impact a person starting with the first time they take the substance, and it does not need to be used for a long period of time or in high doses before negative side effects occur.

Individuals who chronically use bath salts may demonstrate a number of cognitive issues involving altered attention spans. Also, a number of potentially fatal side effects, like cardiovascular issues, seizures and brain swelling, can develop with bath salts usage. Seizures, swelling of the brain, and respiratory distress may produce significant damage to areas of the brain.

A 2013 study found that one of the main substances used in bath salts, MDPV, is highly addictive — possibly even more so than meth. The adverse effects of MDPV can last for six to eight hours after misuse, and it has been reported to cause prolonged panic attacks, psychosis and death.

Physical Effects of Bath Salt Abuse

  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Increased sex drive
  • Reduced need for eating or sleep
  • Increased temperature or chills
  • Chest pain
  • Kidney pain

Psychological Effects of Bath Salt Abuse

  • Euphoria
  • Alertness
  • Delusions or confusions
  • Lowered inhibition and increased sociability
  • Agitated or aggressive behavior
The side effects of bath salts are diverse and inconsistent between different “batches” due to the wide variety of substances labeled as “bath salts.” The effects caused by the same type of bath salts may vary between different misusers and also depend on the amount taken and the method of ingestion.

The common short-term effects felt by most people with a bath salts use disorder include:

  • Euphoria
  • Increased alertness and energy
  • Enhanced empathy and ability to interact socially
  • Intensified sensory experiences
  • Increased libido
  • Reduced appetite
The long-term effects of bath salts include many serious side effects that can result in serious injury or death. In addition to being addictive, bath salts can result in dangerously erratic behavior and, over time, contribute to the development of psychosis and mood disorders.

Some of the most serious bath salts side effects include mood disorders, since these can result in profound depressed states and potential suicide attempts, self-mutilation and delirium, which are both common with the misuse of bath salts over time.

Potential long-term side effects of bath salts misuse include:

  • Liver failure
  • Kidney damage
  • Bone pain
  • Severe depression
  • Psychosis
  • Mood disorders
  • Ulcers
  • Malnutrition
  • Tolerance
  • Addiction
In addition to the negative effects from bath salts themselves, people with bath salts use disorder face additional, and possibly lethal, toxic side effects including:

  • Vein blockage
  • Skin erosion
  • Infection at the injection sites
  • Abscesses
  • Gangrene
  • Blood clots
  • Increased risk of HIV, hepatitis, and other blood-borne illnesses

Bath Salts Addiction Statistics

  • MDPV has been found to raise dopamine levels in the brain ten times more than cocaine.
  • According to a report issued by SAMHSA, synthetic cathinones were responsible for over 22,000 emergency room visits in 2011.  
  • According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, in the final six months of 2011, there were over 3,400 cathinone related calls.  
  • In 2012, over 150 new types of synthetic cathinones were identified.

Addiction and Abuse Treatment for Bath Salt Addiction

Professional treatment for bath salts addiction involves treating addiction symptoms while building the foundation for long-term recovery. The steps to treat bath salt dependence include detox, inpatient therapy, and ongoing recovery.

Those beginning rehab for bath salts addiction may require detox. This step involves safely managing withdrawal symptoms as the drug is processed out of the body. Detox activities typically include:

  • Assisting with withdrawal symptoms
  • Medication treatments for cravings, pain and discomfort
  • Nutrition to support healthy detox
  • Medical monitoring
Clients beginning inpatient therapy have progressed through the majority of detox treatment. During this stage of treatment, patients continue to have guided management of their symptom while starting to build skills for long-term recovery. Residential services include:

  • Managing bath salts cravings
  • Individual and group therapy sessions
  • Professionally supervised medication treatment
  • Fitness and nutrition therapy
  • Introduction to support programs
  • Life skills classes
  • Therapy for mental illness

Ongoing Recovery

When it’s appropriate, clients typically progress to a series of increasingly autonomous treatment programs, such as:

  • Partial Hospitalization Programs
  • Outpatient Programs
  • Aftercare support groups, meetings and classes
  • Sober housing and other transitional opportunities

Overcoming bath salts addiction is possible. With our expert care, The Recovery Village can develop a course of treatment to put you on the path to recovery. Bath salts addiction is just one of the many disorders we can help you treat. Call our representatives today so they can help you get started.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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